Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Journeying with Mary Day Eighteen

Day Eighteen - Wednesday 14th December 2011

Luke 2:21-24
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.  When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Jesus was born into a Jewish family and as such was brought to the temple on his eighth day; he was circumcised, named and presented to the Lord.  Mary and Joseph took him to Jerusalem, and this was the site of much of Jesus' major milestones through his life.  A sacrifice was offered according the Jewish Law and birds were sacrificed.

I normally glance over these few verses and head straight to Simeon, but today I've been struck by the sacrificial offering; it seems so small compared to most Jewish sacrifices.  Never before have I heard anything about this but upon research it appears that it is indeed small, it is the sacrifice allowed for poor families who cannot afford a lamb.  This is another confirmation of the low standing and ordinary-ness of the family into which Jesus was born; he was born into a family of love and strength rather than wealth and status.

Luke 2:25-40
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.  Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required,  Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:  “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”   There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Today the part of this amazing meeting with Simeon which sits most with me is not Simeon's acceptance of Jesus as Messiah, the one he knew he would see before he died; it is instead Simeon's words to Mary "a sword will pierce your own soul too".
As a mother I know all to well about the sword which is forever close to your heart when you become a parent; you are always close to being wounded as you do anything to protect your child from hurt and disappointment.  But Mary was to know this so much more than any of us hopefully will; she saw Jesus rejected, persecuted, tortured and committed to a death sentence.  But of course we know this as we look back knowing the entirety of Jesus' life story; Mary did not.  I wonder whether she was hurt or shocked by Simeon's comment; perhaps it stayed with her for many years to make sense later, or maybe it passed her by, we will never know.
What we do know is that Mary and Joseph apparently left, went home and Jesus grew strong and full of God's grace.  easy peasy. 
Prayer of the day
Father there is so much within this visit to the temple with Jesus as a babe; so much of the future, so much of your path with Jesus, so much of Mary's life.  But today we must just remain here, not worrying about the future.  Help us Lord to remain in the now as Mary must have done then.

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